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Building an “Awareness/Thought Leadership” blueprint April 27, 2009

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing.
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An example of an awareness / thought leadership marketing program. Click to enlarge the image.

One of the most common types of marketing programs are the “awareness & thought leadership” programs.  This specific program has the objective of focusing the company on the business and solutions topics the customer cares about.  Instead of immediately diving down to the feature-rich technical jargon, this program marks an important step to communicating to customer executives that we truly understand their business issues.  It positions us as business partner, and thus allows us to take a consultative approach in dialoguing with customers and prospects. 

Reading left to right, notice that we’ve identified the intended target audience on the left.  (Personas would have been developed in detail prior to designing this blueprint.)  Across the top, the customer’s buying behavior has been listed — in this case moving from “awareness” to “interest”.  The first step of expressing interest is usually seen in the prospect searching for information.  (This is not an comprehensive example; other forms of engaging in awareness and interest activities will be covered in future posts.)  Like branding, this type of program is best viewed as an ongoing investment in creating and maintaining “aircover” for your marketing efforts that will frame specific product launches and promotions. 

Each box in the blueprint references a “theme” and the “marketing methods” (i.e. articles, Web, executive presentations) used to communicate the theme.  We cast our net wide by starting with business topics that should appeal to both the CIO and IT director.  Popular themes can be thought of as the “what” themes: — What industry trends will influence the industry? or What impact can we expect the current economy to have on consumer behavior?  or What are the three primary investment priorities for telco CIOs in 2010?  For best results, a company may have one or two business themes that will be explored all year.  It’s best to be focused.

Next, we move on to solutions-based themes.   Think of these topics as “how” themes — How will companies balance containing costs while protecting the network? or How are companies maximizing the ROI of their outsourced functions and programs?  These topics tend to get more specific in prescribing a criteria for success.  For best results, a company may entertain 2-3 solutions topics that support each business theme, per quarter.  This allows additional solutions topics to unfold over time, thereby providing flexibility to leverage new product launches and current events that may impact buyer behavior.

Notice that in neither the business-topics nor the solutions-topics  have we put our product in the headline.  This is important.  The value that your company brings is in sponsoring these topics and providing business and solutions savviness.  Via your sponsorship, customers will make the connection to your products and services.  Like chapters in a book, these discussion topics will build and evolve each quarter, providing rich content for prospects to review and respond to. 

But our marketing efforts are only just beginning.  Ultimately, the best qualified leads are the ones who seek us out.  So, we whet their appetite with our business and solutions topics, and we give them an opportunity to raise their hand to request more information.  And, we’ll be on the look out for prospects who exhibit certain behavior based on the topics they find of interest and the information they share with us along the way.  (I’ll share some best practices on establishing lead qualification criteria and scoring in a later blog post.) In either case, we’ll be ready.  That’s when our demand generation programs kick in and we actively confirm that they are indeed qualified as we quickly stream them through the sales cycle.

Next month I’ll share an overview of a couple of blueprints for demand generation programs.

For more information, please read Marketing Campaign Development.

Get a free hour with Mike Gospe February 7, 2018

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing.
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We’re celebrating the 10 year anniversary of Marketing Campaign Development! Thank you for being part of the MCD family of more than 100K views from marketing teams around the world.

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Interested in getting some feedback on your latest plans?

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During 2018, I’m offering a free 1 hour marketing consultation to the first 10 people who sign up. Contact me to schedule a video conference where we can chat about anything you like: launch plans, campaign strategies, blueprint creation, campaign manager coaching, navigating internal politics, whatever. It’s a free hour for you, and it’s an opportunity for me to say thank you!

Contact me to schedule your free consultation.

In the meantime, please enjoy my 3 most popular blog posts of all time

  1. Do we really need a positioning statement?
  2. Communications Objectives and the Buying and Sales Processes
  3. Building an “Awareness/Thought Leadership” Blueprint

Contact me to schedule your free consultation.



5 Marketing Best Practices Used by Marketo August 28, 2014

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Lead Gen.
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In early 2013, Mary Gospe, KickStart Alliance’s lead generation and integrated marketing strategist, ran a blog post about 5 best practices used by Marketo to promote themselves. Because this topic continues to be relevant, I wanted to replay that blog post here.  Good stuff to consider in any marketing campaign. (more…)

Thinking about adding a blog into your marcom mix? Here’s how to break through blogger’s block June 8, 2010

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Social Media.
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Several of my clients are considering adding a blog into their integrated marketing mix.  In each of these specific cases, the company wants to use the blog as a portal to showcase “thought leadership” — not to sell.  Yet, the marketing and sales leaders are struggling to get their thoughts on paper.

I recently ran across the following blog post that is written specifically for bloggers: 6 Ways to Constantly Produce Quality Blog Content. This is a wonderful recipe for breaking thru the barriers of writer’s block that everyone faces.

Here’s the synopsis:

1) Before you start blogging, clarify the specific objective for your blog and how/when/where the blog fits in your marketing blueprint.  With this in mind, now establish an editorial calendar for the content that fits the objective.

2) Make a list of categories with sub-topics.  This sets the framework for how your blog will develop over time.

3) Keep a running list of blog topics.  Brainstorms can hit at any time.  Keep track of all ideas, rational, crazy or not.

4) Write several blogs at one time.  Set aside time to write.  Personally, I find it easier to write early in the morning before the interruptions of the day begin.

5) Find guest bloggers.  Share the writing opportunity with others.

6) Interview experts.  Whenever you feel that you’ve tapped all your knowledge, interview a partner, peer, client, colleague, expert, etc.  Look for alternative perspectives that can freshen up a topic.

What marketers can learn from Miles Davis April 1, 2009

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing.
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I’m listening to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue and pondering one of life’s deep questions: what defines great jazz?   We all know great jazz when we hear it.  But why exactly is his music so good while jazz performed by so many other musicians just don’t quite measure up?  The simple answer for me is: it’s his bands’ ability to listen to each other and the spaces between the notes.

Great jazz groups are great not only because each musician is an expert with their own instrument, but also because they know how to play as a group.  They know how to listen, to set the cadence with piano, drums, and bass while the trumpet or sax dances on notes following a spring breeze.  They know never to play over each other, but to take turns to highlight the uniqueness of each individual instrument — for example, to create space so the bass can rise above the rest and impart its own magic in the mix.  Listening and adjusting for the greater good of the tune is what it’s all about.  The star may be Miles, but do you think he discounts the value Bill Evans brings on piano?  No way.

The same goes for understanding what makes great integrated marketing campaigns.  The marketing functions are the instruments; the campaign is the tune. 

Consider a product launch campaign where “thought leadership” webinars, executive presentations, Google adwords and syndicated articles provide the cadence, just like the piano, drums, and bass.   Momentum towards the product launch date builds with direct marketing and social media commentary, just as the trumpet rings the notes of the melody.  The cadence of the piano, drums, and bass continues to nurture our ears as we prepare for the solo.  Then, with rising anticipation, a press announcement and customer event punctuate the timeline just like a euphoric saxophone solo played by John Coltrane.   Our story unfolds which each marketing vehicle being highlighted at the right time, all with a single purpose of supporting the campaign. 

For me, this lesson hit home when I joined a jazz combo group.  (I play piano, but I’m not quitting my day job.)   It’s easy to play with a group and sound crappy; playing like Miles takes dedication to check your ego at the door, listening to each other, and holding the greater good of the tune above any individual instrument.  That is the secret.

My prescription for success: take time out of your busy week to listen to your favorite jazz tune.  Listen for the spaces between the notes. And enjoy!

What’s your favorite jazz tune?

Marketing Blueprints in Action — put them on display March 5, 2012

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Just for Campaign Managers.
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Displaying their marketing blueprints in the corporate hallways have created a tighter bond between marketing and sales. “This is real enterprise marketing,” says the company’s president. (more…)

The role of the product launch boss in the NPI process August 23, 2010

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Just for Campaign Managers, Marketing Operations.
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What is the role of the launch boss in the new product introduction (NPI) process?

This is a good question.  One that can lead to confusion and consternation if the role isn’t clearly defined at the outset.  I had the opportunity to attend a conference hosted by the Product Realization Group last week.  Often, but not always, this role falls on the shoulders of someone in product management or product marketing. Rob Bisaillon, director of new product introduction at Verigy Memory and Application Specific Test Systems Division, offered a few success factors regarding the NPI process, and insights into the most effective product launch bosses.

Rob’s list of Key Success Factors included:

  • Team formation & kick-off: define the team, name all active team members and communicate their involvement to the rest of the organization beginning with a kick-off meeting to align participants and set expectations.
  • Set clear goals and deliverables: time tables often change, so adopt a discipline of setting and communicating goals often.  Whether deliverables are engineering-, production-, or marketing/sales-related, make a point to include a short one-line description of each regarding the who/what/when/where/why associated with any/all deliverables.  This helps to avoid any confusion down the road.
  • Action tracking and reviews: be formal about tracking the status of open action items.  Many teams use the red-yellow-green color scheme to highlight status.  Microsoft Project(TM) is an example of a good tool to use.
  • Timely resolution of issues: when open issues are not resolved quickly, they fester.  A good launch boss will grab the bull by the horns to wrestle the issue to resolution.  Effective launch bosses are always diplomatic, but they are not afraid to to tackle sticky issues and bring them before a steering committee for a final resolution.
  • Check point reviews with executive management: the effective NPI team will have structured review meetings with upper management.  These meetings are sometimes referred to as “Gate” meetings.  When differences in opinions arise (and they will), the NPI leader’s role is not to dictate the final answer. Instead, the effective product launch boss will bring the issue, with a recommendation, to the steering committee for them to vote on or resolve.
  • Executive sponsorship: a bottoms-up approach to product launches only works so far.  Without executive sponsorship to guide and direct decisions and team behavior, the NPI will suffer and frustration levels will rise.

With these six key points in mind, Rob went further to offer that while product experience is important, the most important characteristics of an effective launch boss are their temperament, attitude, and ability to clearly communicate with team members.  In fact, product knowledge and technical expertise are usually in great supply; whereas, the ability to navigate politics, soothe feathers, and guide a cross-functional team to success is not quite as common.

Adding my own thoughts to Rob’s, I believe the single hardest thing for a launch boss (or integrated campaign manager!) to do is to get team members to take action when, in fact, they don’t report to you.  When the launch boss resorts to dictatorial action, the risk of failure increases.  But, when team leaders leave their egos at the door, invite cross-functional participation and leadership, and focuses on managing the process not the outcome, teammates will recognize and favor the launch boss’ value-add.

If you have an example of an exceptional launch boss, or a poor one, I’d love to hear your story.

A blueprint for a “quick win” March 8, 2010

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Marketing Operations.
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There is an art to crafting marketing blueprints.  Although the concept is simple and intuitive, it takes practice and patience to work the model.  More than that, it takes time to show colleagues in marketing and sales that the model really does work.  Proof will be found in producing better results (i.e. more, better quality leads) while reducing internal frustration and the need to rewrite copy over and over and over again.

What’s needed is a quick win! 

A blueprint quick win is an opportunity to apply the blueprint best-practice model to an event, with focus on a limited span of time.  Here’s an example:

Not long ago I worked with a company who had scheduled a webinar that would take place in 3 weeks; yet because the marketing staff (5 people) was so stretched, no pre-marketing for the event had been considered.  Their answer was to outsource the entire production to Ziff Davis — a webinar turn-key solution with a guarantee of 250 registrants.  After interviewing the team, I sketched their initial blueprint, shown below.

Two other facts are important to this story:

  1. The sales and marketing teams each had a slightly different definition regarding “raw inquiries”, “qualified inquiries”, and “leads.”
  2. Because of trust issues, sales requested that all 250 registrants be immediately turned over to sales.

I suggested that if this plan were executed as outlined above, the only thing I could guarantee would be that each team would be unhappy with the results.

The first thing we did was to sit down with the marketing and sales leadership and hammer out a confirmed understanding of inquiry and lead definitions.  Then, we conducted a 30 minute blueprint exercise designed to answer the following 6 questions:

  1. Who is the target audience (persona)?  (Here’s an example.)
  2. How do they want to be communicated with?
  3. What offers do they want/expect from us?
  4. After they respond to the first activity and offer, what happens next? And what happens after that?
  5. What happens if they don’t respond?
  6. How will these activities and offers help qualify these prospects?

As a result we crafted the final blueprint.

The upshot: A focused blueprint with a purpose

  • Instead of relying solely on Ziff Davis to promote the event, we discovered 5 additional pre-event marketing tactics that could be easily coordinated.
  • This was a thought-leadership webinar.  The next logical step in our dialog with prospects was to direct them to a product that best addressed the issues raised during the webinar.  We wondered if any attendees were interested in taking the next step with us immediately.  So, we included an immediate call-to-action to stay on the line to see a product demo. Most folks dropped off the line, but more than a few stayed on!
  • In the days that followed, two separate conversations would unfold: one for prospects who registered and attended; the other for prospects who registered but did not attend.
  • Our blueprinted program was designed to last 4 weeks.  At which time we would regroup with sales to review the number and status of the inquiries and leads.

The results

  • Instead of 250 registrants, we generated 1,050.
  • 497 touched our company at least twice during the 4 weeks that followed the webinar.  These were the leads that were passed immediately to sales.  The others remained in an ongoing marketing nurturing program. 

How much did it cost to rework the blueprint?  Absolutely nothing except 30 minutes of time to plan.  Literally.

Qualitatively, the marketing and inside sales teams were doing high-fives down the hall.  A whiteboard kept a running tally of our leads for all to see.  The marketing had secured it’s first quick win.  With a renewed sense of partnership, the team moved on to tackle more comprehensive blueprints.

More details of this story are shared in this article.